Presentation skills - top tips - Business Works
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Presentation skills - top tips

Jo-Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory Having to do a presentation can be a stressful experience for many people, but it doesn't have to be. Jo-Ellen Grzyb from Impact Factory shares her top tips on delivering effective and professional presentations.

Presentation preparation

Avoid relying too heavily on slides to convey your message; they distract the audience and can take away from the core message. Use visual aids to enhance your message, not just bullet points on what youíre actually saying. Unless a visual adds an essential element which cannot be conveyed verbally then it shouldnít be included. Ask yourself, do you really need to include an agenda slide?

Keep slides brief and avoid giving your audience information before it has been presented, because people read faster than they can hear. This also means you can be more spontaneous and change your presentation with no one being the wiser. Too many visuals hamstring presenters and force them down a path that is rigid and uncreative.

Be bold: donít be afraid of blacking out the presentation screen to allow the audience to focus on what is being said. You will come to realise that over-reliance on PowerPoint and repeating the content of slides verbatim ruins the flow and impact of your presentation.

Strategies for dealing with nerves

Standing in front of an audience is nerve-wracking. However, you can use this adrenalin to your advantage, as it improves concentration and energy levels. Visualising and conditioning techniques block out all distractions and will place you firmly in the moment to help manage nerves. Even if you are shaking inside, confident body language will increase the hormones that help you feel more self-assured.

Although facial expressions, hand gestures and repetitive phrases can help convey the meaning of your words, if you keep repeating the same ones over and over, they can be unnerving for the audience and are the first indicators of nervousness. There is no need to eliminate them altogether; you just need to mix them up - especially when illustrating key points which will ensure the audience does not lose interest.

Storytelling techniques and presentation structuring

Practise creating your presentation in a circular narrative structure. Like any good story it needs a beginning, middle and end, and then back to the key message at the end to reinforce it. Frames of reference should be built up and through the common point of reference; the audience will have an emotional and intellectual buy-in.

You donít need to be linear. Most speakers deliver linear presentations which box people in. However, if you think about speech, we donít talk in such an imprisoning structure. We veer off on tangents and then return to our main point. This process of moving from one idea to another and then back again can be an effective way of presenting as the subsidiary comments add colour to the presentation. Parents donít tell stories using bullet points or PowerPoint. Good presenters embellish and personalise content to make it interesting and exciting in order to capture the attention of those listening. People remember good stories.

Body language and personal appearance

As a rule, appearance should be geared to the audience you are presenting to and so consider your listeners and dress appropriately. I also advise you dress marginally better than your audience to demonstrate your position as an authoritative speaker on the subject in question.

it is the audience's job to fall asleep and the presenterís job to keep them awake

It is crucial you mix up your body language so as to keep the audience engaged. This can be achieved by making eye contact with members of the audience. Seek out a friendly face and return to it when youíre feeling unsure. If you feel comfortable, your body language will reflect this which in turn makes the audience feel uneasy. Just remember, it is not about being relaxed, it is about being engaging; it is the audience's job to fall asleep and the presenterís job to keep them awake.

Vocal skills and techniques

There is no point in trying to disguise an accent as itís a great distinguishing factor. An accent informs who you are and if you try to conceal it, this can impact on your individuality.

To loosen up, do something physical beforehand, such as jumping up and down or jogging on the spot. When we are nervous we go rigid with fear, making our voice sound strangled and shaky; moving your body like this loosens things up and helps the voice sound firm and confident.

Vocal monotone helps to send people to sleep and you must therefore keep your voice strong and clear. This can be achieved by breathing in deeply, so oxygen is circulated around your body, making your voice more relaxed and lowered in tone.

To contact Jo-Ellen or for more information, please visit:

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